The second reflection of last Sunday
The earnestness in his voice was too strong to ignore. Nothing about it felt rehearsed or forced or phony. His realness brought on a tension that rolled through the pews. Everyone knew the stakes of this moment. We waited on held breath and seat’s edge to see how he would set the tone for this series.
Pitch, posture and adjectives all became the difference between a weeping and a rolling eye. Before him sat a crowd that was hardly homogenous. It was filled with diverse thoughts on theology and decades of life histories. Playing on the safe side would be tricky to do, but possible. He could make it across this bridge without pissing off both gays and conservatives.
It was possible.
But it was far from relevant.
Through eyes brimmed with tears, I watched as he went the whole mile. I think he knew it was a moment for grace not groans. And as he went on, it became clear to me that he got what grace was. Or better yet, what grace does.
That night there was a change in routine. Typically, communion was held at the close of every service where every attendee would line up to receive the elements and then return to their row for personal prayer and reflection.
This night, he wanted us stay where we were. There was something that he needed to say and something we needed to do and it was way too important to ignore.
Staring across the divide between altar and audience
he made a call to repentance.
Not some generic repentance of how “we are all sinners and fall short”;
No, this was direct and it was specific.
He called for forgiveness for how we as the Church and as individuals had inflicted pain upon the LGBT community.
He uttered one of the most beautiful prayers I have ever heard. His words outshining every one of my Sunday mornings.
I didn’t hear a party platform.
There was no disclaimer of “We the Church believe” statements
I didn’t hear excuses and I didn’t hear explanations.
All I heard, over and over, was an apology.
And what he’s heard of heartache and marginalization.
And an acknowledgement of his own ineptitude in understanding.
And his commitment to walk humbly and ask questions and listen to stories.
It was a meaningful surrender.
So much so, that I surrendered too.
A choice that had lay dormant in those dark parts of my soul started to stir. Dripping words and the breathing of believers around me became deafening. They were all saying sorry to me. They were all saying they loved me.
I don’t recall reconciliation having a more beautiful birth. This just couldn’t be ignored.
Soon forgiveness was fighting its way out and I had no choice but to give in.
And over and over, under my breath, I rocked and hummed to the harmony of,
“thank you, thank you, thank you”
“it’s forgiven, it’s forgiven, it’s forgiven”
The gorgeousness of this bridge bended most of my barriers to the ground. As I saw more clearly where he had just gone, a gratitude arose that was inexpressible. His prayer was a blend of an apology and a plea. An honest call to both the divine and the shoved out. It was deep crying out to deep.
It felt like communion made perfect. And it could not be ignored.
If grace has taught us anything, it’s that it is far from safe. It is a hurricane. It is a force to be reckoned with.
Grace is more significant than a thousand of your theological disputes.
Even in the whisper of a child, grace silences the chorus of millions.
It is an imperative.
It is piercing.
And It refuses to be ignored.
And at the end of the day, it was grace that brought me back to the Church. It was grace that bound my wounds and redeemed what I thought to be a ruined religion.
It was grace.
it’s sweet sound.
That threads apologies and love and redemption
into the loveliest of tunes.